There’s a lot of things in the IT field which I would consider to be unqiuely hip. Call it what you want – “a meme”, a buzzword, trend – a few of them actually have some significance. Dvorak was one where I was sure this was the case, until it became a necessity. Let’s take a trip back to 2013 to learn how and why I switched.
My hands feel like they’re being shocked.
2013 was my first year in college. I averaged around 135WPM with QWERTY, mostly by pecking with my index and middle fingers. Everything felt fine until I started to have convulsions in my hands, which I can only describe as feeling like electric shocks. You guessed it – carpal tunnel. This scared the hell out of me. The one thing I needed to get through college, and work, started to show signs of a severe disability.
I was only really using 4 fingers to type. This comes from learning how to type on my own, and not touch typing. To prevent future injuries I decided to look into touch typing, and found it awkward. I did some research into Colemak, Dvorak, and Maltron. I decided on Dvorak as it was a more radical change than Colemak, and did not require a financial investment.
For me, the best resource to learn was dvorak.nl. It first shows the most apparent advantage: you can type a very large amount of words on the home row, without moving your fingers. For example, I can type Austin on the home row.
I also tried to rearrange the keys on my mechanical keyboard, as opposed to memorizing the keys, but found this to be more trouble than it was worth. Keep practicing on dvorak.nl, keep a paper in front of you of the keyboard layout so you’re not tempted to hunt and peck.
I think I started at about 10WPM, which is terrible, but by the end of the month I averaged around 30WPM. 3-4 months later was around 65 WPM, and a year in about 85WPM.
I even looked into using it on my phone at the time (which had a physical keyboard). Since it did not have the same space orientation as a QWERTY keyboard (it was more in a “grid”) it did not work well with Dvorak specific methods, such as finger rolling.
Everyone assumes you’re using QWERTY.
The biggest downside from switching to Dvorak came after college. If you share a computer at work, it will be frustrating as no one else will likely know how to switch between keyboard layouts. Even if you do not share a computer, occaisionally, you may have to let someone else use your computer to do something. When a tense moment at work arrises, and someone needs to use your computer, the moment gets tenser when they are typing gibberish on the keyboard.
I have not had any carpal tunnel symptoms since 2013. Switching to Dvorak may have very well saved my career. Right now, I am nowhere near my former typing speed, but I have managed to get up to about 124 WPM.